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2000-01-28

Clinton State of the Union Address

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In his seventh and last State of the Union address, President Clinton last night proposed building "a more perfect union" with billions of dollars in tax cuts and stiffer gun control, and called on Congress to seize on the nation’s prosperity to aid the middle class. [includes rush transcript]

In Clinton’s longest State of the Union address since he took office seven years ago, the biggest surprise was his call for mandatory photo licenses and safety training for all handgun buyers. He also proposed a total of $350 billion in tax cuts for the middle class, as well as spending for health care, education and fighting crime. Many of his announcements on health care, education and the environment mirrored the campaign proposals of Vice President and presidential contender Al Gore, whom the president mentioned four times in his speech.

Insisting that a Democratic administration and a Republican-controlled Congress can achieve significant goals even in an election year, the president touched upon virtually every aspect of domestic policy in his address, focusing only briefly on foreign policy.

Clinton’s proposals spanned a broad range of issues — from Medicare coverage for prescription drugs, to marriage penalty relief, to the passage of a hate crimes bill, to the rebuilding of schools, to tax breaks for college bound children of upper middle income families, to an increase in minimum wage. The question on Capitol Hill now is whether many of them will see the light of day.

Today, a look at some of the major issues in the president’s speech, issues that grassroots communities around the country have been fighting for–education, health care coverage, economic opportunities for the poor and welfare.

Guests:

  • Rep. Bernard Sanders, (Ind–VT).
  • Steffi Woolhandler, Professor at Harvard University and Founder of Physicians for a National Health Care Plan.
  • Dean Baker, Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research.
  • Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author and social commentator

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to move to the State of the Union right now. In his seventh and last State of the Union address, President Clinton last night proposed building a more perfect union, as he put it, with billions of dollars in tax cuts and stiffer gun control, and called on Congress to seize on the nation’s prosperity to aid the middle class.

In Clinton’s longest State of the Union address since he took office seven years ago, the biggest surprise was his call for mandatory photo licenses and safety training for all handgun buyers. He also proposed a total of $350 billion in tax cuts for the middle class, as well as spending for healthcare, education and fighting crime.

Many of his announcements on healthcare, education and the environment mirror the campaign proposals of Vice President and presidential contender Al Gore, whom the President mentioned four times in his speech, insisting that a Democratic administration and Republican-controlled Congress can achieve significant goals even in an election year.

The President touched upon virtually every aspect of domestic policy in his address, focusing only briefly on foreign policy. Clinton’s proposals spanned a broad range of issues from Medicare coverage for prescription drugs to marriage penalty relief to the passage of a hate crimes bill to the rebuilding of schools. The question on Capitol Hill is now whether many of them will see the light of day.

Today, we’ll look at some of the major issues in the President’s speech. We’ll begin by going to talk to Vermont Independent Congressmember Bernie Sanders, and then we’ll travel around the country to get response. But first we go to President Clinton, himself.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Let us remember that the first American Revolution was not won with a single shot. The continent was not settled in a single year. The lesson of our history and the lesson of the last seven years is that great goals are reached step by step, always building on our progress, always gaining ground. Of course, you can’t gain ground if you’re standing still. And for too long this Congress has been standing still on some of our most pressing national priorities. So let’s begin tonight with them.

Again, I ask you to pass a real patients’ bill of rights. I ask you to pass common-sense gun safety legislation. I ask you to pass campaign finance reform. I ask you to vote up or down on judicial nominations and other important appointees. And again, I ask you — I implore you — to raise the minimum wage.

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton in his last State of the Union address last night. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! Joining us on the line is Vermont Independent, Bernie Sanders. Welcome to Democracy Now!

REP. BERNIE SANDERS: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: First, let’s start off with your reaction to President Clinton’s speech.

REP. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I think given the context of American politics today and the fact that Republicans control both parties and that 36% of the people voted in the last election, and so forth and so on, within that context, it was a good speech. Within the context of analyzing what in fact is really happening in America and where we really have to go, it left much to be desired.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congressman, frankly, as I listened to the President last night, it was almost a laundry list of concerns that seemed at one point endless in terms of the numbers that he was raising, all aimed obviously at working Americans, so many of them, because clearly the Democratic Party and his — his Vice President Al Gore’s going to need all the support he can from working America. But the question of how sincere Al Gore is and being able to carryout some of these initiatives, what’s your sense of that?

REP. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, that’s a good question, but I think that the more important issue is that unless we have campaign finance reform so that we stop these large corporations from pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the political process, unless we are able to mobilize working Americans so that they stand up and vote, there is no reason to believe that Gore or anybody else is going to tackle the most difficult issues facing this country. So I look less at Gore than the need to build a strong politically conscious movement in this country, which begins to pressure the United States Congress to do the right thing. If you ask my own judgment about Gore, my guess is he will not be as progressive as Bill Clinton has been.

AMY GOODMAN: If you were giving the State of the Union address, what would you have stressed?

REP. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, the first point to make, and what disturbed me a little bit about Clinton’s speech, is the analysis of where we are today. The truth of the matter is the economy today is better than it was eight years ago. No question about it. But the reality is, for the average American worker, that person is working longer hours for lower wages than was the case twenty-five years ago.

So if you step back and you take a deep breath and you say, "Gee, all of this explosion of technology and the internet and everything else," and yet you’re finding in this country people are working incredibly long hours. We now have passed the Japanese in the number of hours that we work per week. We have less vacation time. And people are doing that in order to make up for declining wages over the last twenty-five years.

Our low-waged workers, the people who are making six, seven, eight bucks an hour, are the lowest-paid low-wage workers in any industrialized country on earth. We have more people without health insurance than we had years ago. So I do not see quite the rosy picture in terms of the economy that the President painted, understanding the fact that the situation today is better than it was a couple of years ago.

So what do we have to do? What we have to do is make the economy work for the middle class and working families. We have to understand that the generation of new wealth, which in fact is taking place today, is not good enough, if the richest 1% of the population owns more wealth than the bottom 95%. And we have the greatest gap between the rich and the poor of any industrialized country on earth. So I would start off by not agreeing with the President that the picture is quite as rosy as he portrayed it to be.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the issue of education seemed to be a major aspect of his speech. What do you sense will be the importance of education in this presidential campaign?

REP. BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I hope it is very important. I mean, education is an end in itself. You know, as human beings, I think one of the goals of human life is to be as educated as we possibly can be. And everybody knows that in this exploding technological revolution, to get a decent job out there, you’re going to have to have a good education.

I also don’t agree — and I think his call for more money in the Head Start Program is absolutely right. I do not quite agree with his assessment that we’re making all of this progress in making college education affordable to middle-class and working-class families. In real point of fact, Pell grants over the last number of years have not kept pace with the inflationary cost of college.

And I would establish as a point of principle that any person in this country who has the capability and wants to pursue higher education should have and be able to do that, should be able to do that regardless of the income of his or her family. And we are a long, long way away from that.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Sanders, I know you have to go. One quick question about Seattle. Did it shake the administration, and did you see any sense of that last night?

REP. BERNIE SANDERS: I think, well, you know, as you know, the President came out with his desire to see the free trade agreement with China, a permanent free trade agreement with China. But I do think that what happened in Seattle has had a very positive impact on Congress and on this country, in general. I would say that if you had a vote, for example, on NAFTA today, there would be a lot less support for it in the Congress than was the case when it was originally passed.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Bernard Sanders, I want to thank you for being with us, Independent, a socialist from Vermont, at the State of the Union address last night, President Clinton’s last. And you are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll continue with our analysis in just a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!, the Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We have to be at the center of every vital global network as a good neighbor and a good partner. We have to recognize that we cannot build our future without helping others to build theirs.

The first thing we have got to do is to forge a new consensus on trade. Now, those of us who believe passionately in the power of open trade, we have to ensure that it lifts both our living standards and our values, never tolerating abusive child labor or a race to the bottom in the environment and worker protection. But others must recognize that open markets and rule-based trade are the best engines we know of for raising living standards, reducing global poverty and environmental destruction, and assuring the free flow of ideas.

I believe as strongly tonight as I did the first day I got here the only direction forward for America on trade, the only direction for America on trade, is to keep going forward. I ask you to help me forge that consensus.

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton, speaking last night in his seventh and last State of the Union address. We’re joined right now by a roundtable of people to talk about trade, empowerment, to talk about healthcare. Dean Baker is with us, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Your assessment of his economic proposals, Dean Baker?

DEAN BAKER: Well, one of the things that President Clinton has gotten very good at is making not much sound like a great deal. And if you look through his proposals, you know, he mentions Head Start, he talks about a drug program for the elderly. There’s a lot of things we could mention here, but when you actually look at the numbers and you say what will this really mean, in most cases it’s pretty small scale.

And, you know, what I find really disappointing is when you step back for a second — we just celebrated Martin Luther King’s birthday — and you just go back to, you know, what Martin Luther King’s agenda was or, just even more general, the agenda in the '60s, we're talking about ending poverty, ending child poverty, giving everyone a decent job.

Well, here we are. The economy is as strong as we realistically can hope it’s going to get. I mean, we’re not going to see this boom continue indefinitely, and if we’re ever going to address these problems, you know, this is when you’d hope you would do it. And measured against, you know, just where we were thirty years ago, it’s a huge step back.

AMY GOODMAN: He also talked about making an investment in this country and not just talking about international trade. And we’re going to listen to what he has to say right now about empowerment.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I believe we need a twenty-first century revolution to open new markets, start new businesses, hire new workers right here in America — in our inner cities, poor rural areas, and Native American reservations. Our nation’s prosperity hasn’t yet reached these places.

Over the last six months, I’ve traveled to a lot of them, joined by many of you and many far-sighted business people, to shine a spotlight on the enormous potential in communities from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from Watts to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Everywhere I go, I meet talented people eager for opportunity and able to work. Tonight I ask you, let’s put them to work. For business, it’s the smart thing to do. For America, it’s the right thing to do. And let me ask you something: if we don’t do this now, when in the wide world will we ever get around to it?

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton in his State of the Union address. In addition to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research we have Earl Ofari Hutchinson in Los Angeles, author and commentator. Earl Ofari Hutchinson can you comment on the President’s speech and, among other issues, empowerment zones and also the hate crimes legislation he wants put forward?

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON: Well, President Clinton said something that was very interesting. He said that we want to put as many people to work as we can. He mentioned, certainly, American Indians. And he mentioned situation and conditions in the Delta — presumably the Mississippi Delta in the South.

But when you look at the figures, again, it says a lot, but it’s really a little. You’re talking about $110 million economic initiative for the Delta, and you’re talking about $1 billion, by Clinton’s estimate, for Native Americans. It’s just too little. It’s just not enough. It’s just not going to do what Clinton says he wants to do, namely, put people to work.

But even beyond putting people to work, economically revitalize these areas, which are in dire and desperate need of economic regeneration. So, again, when you look at the figures, it’s really a paltry sum. And you’ve got to remember one thing when you’re talking about putting people to work, presumably people in the inner cities and in the rural areas, and certainly there are contained areas of reservations. What you’re saying is what Democrats have said going back all the way to Lyndon Johnson, the same thing: we want to empower people; we want to put the hardcore unemployed back to work. But the problem has always been, even back to the Johnson years, not enough money, not firm initiatives and programs to really do that.

Now, when you talk about the empowerment zones, I know out in Los Angeles and Oakland, California and San Diego, this is an area that certainly has been focused on for a long time by Democratic politicians. The problem here is, particularly in Los Angeles, where they do have several empowerment zones, when you look at the types of individuals that are being employed, they’re not those that live in the community. They’re not the neediest. They’re not the most hardcore individuals that cannot find work and are in desperate need of employment and retraining and other jobs skills. Corporations come in, middle level manufacturing companies come in, take some of the government’s tax credits and initiatives, and they go hire people other places, usually skilled or semi-skilled people that don’t live in that area. And that’s been one of the major complaints and one of the major failings of empowerment zones.

Hate crimes legislation, I think, is critically important. As you well know, Congress has bottled up this legislation now for almost two years. And certainly, reports have come out in many parts of the country that we still have a rise in the number of incidents of hate crimes. In Los Angeles, a report just came out two days ago that African Americans in certain parts of Los Angeles, Latinos in certain parts of Los Angeles, and also Jewish synagogues in the valley areas in Los Angeles, are still under attacks. So, you know, it’s a myth that hate crimes have gone down in America, law enforcement’s more diligent, prosecutors are going at it really tooth-and-nail and rooting out the hate and violent hate mongers. The fact of the matter is, we still desperately need this legislation, and we still have an obstructionist Congress there that’s doing everything they can to deny and stonewall that. Clinton’s got to do much more, other than just say we need hate crimes legislation. We know that. But you’ve got to put your full muscle behind it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Earl, one thing that I noticed that was absent from his remarks was any mention of the epidemic problem of police abuse and racial profiling in African American and Latino communities. Certainly this is an issue at the local level in city after city, in inner city neighborhood after inner city neighborhood, has become a pressing issue. There was no mention of it in his speech.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON: And I did note that. As a matter of fact, let’s even extend it a little bit further. Racial profiling, any mention of that was certainly noticeably absent. Police abuse, well, I would expect that to be absent before that bunch in Congress.

But the other thing is that we have talked about a number of times, and certainly begs for — I mean, screams for reform, mainly the criminal justice system, and even more specifically the absolute unconscionable disparities in sentencing of African Americans and Latinos for drug-related crimes — I mean, no mention of that. This is one of the major things that has led to the absolute astronomic rise in the prison population in America, and I might also add, increasingly more and more Latino and African American women, almost always related to drug, petty drug crimes and other related kinds of criminal incidences. None of that was addressed by Bill Clinton. And as a matter of fact, we probably shouldn’t expect it to be addressed by him, because if we really look very closely at the Clinton administration and their initiatives on police and the criminal justice system, I would trace back to the Clinton administration and put my finger on him, and his administration is probably doing more harm and damage in terms of the huge and massive expansion of the prison-industrial complex during his eight years in office.

So, yeah, while getting back to police abuse and racial profiling, it is endemic in America. You’ve got seventeen states now that are seriously looking at legislation. They’re beginning compiling stats on unwarranted traffic stops to get a handle on this. Los Angeles recently, the sheriff and the chief of police in Los Angeles said we don’t racially profile, we’re not going to do anything in that area. So I’m saying you’re going to have to have some intervention from the federal government.

The Conyers bill has been kicking around for a long time in Congress. As a matter of fact, he’s introduced it practically every year for the last three years to deal with unwarranted traffic stops and collecting stats to see exactly how widespread racial profiling is. I haven’t heard Clinton mention anything about the Conyers bill, action in Congress and some initiatives out of there. So again, we’re seeing a big shortfall in terms of the Clinton initiatives versus the Clinton rhetoric.

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, another Conyers bill that hasn’t gotten much support is one that calls for not even reparations, but a look at slavery, which could begin a discussion of reparations that so many other communities have gotten in this country. But, of course, it’s not just the President who doesn’t talk about that and make it a national issue. Neither do any of the presidential candidates, from Republicans to Democrats.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON: And there’s widespread support for that. As a matter of fact, the Dallas City Council and several other city councils around the country have passed supportive resolutions, saying, look, the Conyers bill should be passed. There is widespread sentiment that we need to look at this. Look, reparations have been paid to a lot of different groups. Apologies have been made to a lot of different groups.

So at some point in time — it’s a touchy question, but it’s a vital question that the Clinton administration or some administration — and certainly the nation — is going to have to face up to. It can’t duck for cover and tap-dance around it forever.

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton also talked about the issue of healthcare last night.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We simply must act now to strengthen and modernize Medicare. My budget includes a comprehensive plan to reform Medicare, to make it more efficient and more competitive. And it dedicates nearly $400 billion of our budget surplus to keep Medicare solvent past 2025. And at long last, it also provides funds to give every senior a voluntary choice of affordable coverage for prescription drugs.

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton last night in his State of the Union address. We’re also joined on the telephone by Steffi Woolhandler, professor at Harvard University and founder of Physicians for a National Health Care Plan. What did you think of the various healthcare proposals and assessments that President Clinton did last night, Dr. Woolhandler?

STEFFI WOOLHANDLER: Well, Clinton proposed little that was new. The major problem we have in this country is that we have 44 million people who are uninsured. And he is really not going to address that problem. He did discuss some minor changes to the CHIP Program, the existing federal CHIP Program, that if passed would spend a $110 billion and yet only cover about $5 million of the uninsured, even if everything went as planned.

So he really didn’t address our major issue, which is we have no system to guarantee universal access to healthcare. And, of course, every other developed nation has provided universal healthcare to their people through a nonprofit national health insurance system, which is what we really need.

JUAN GONZALEZ: What about his proposals in terms of Social Security and in terms of prescription drugs?

STEFFI WOOLHANDLER: Well, he’s given very little detail on his prescription drug benefit. Certainly, people within Medicare could use a prescription drug benefit. Generally, the proposals the Democrats have put forward have been quite limited, with lots of caps and co-payments, so that the problem of drug costs is not really solved by their proposals. But in the absence of detail, it’s hard to say much more than that. But that’s just dealing with a very small part of the total problem in healthcare in this country.

Certainly seniors need access to prescription drugs, but there’s major problems for people under the age of sixty-five who are uninsured, who lack adequate coverage. There’s increasingly big problems with people who have health insurance. But when they get their insurance through a profit-driven HMO, they often can’t get the care they need when they really need it, which is when they have an expensive illness.

JUAN GONZALEZ: There was remarkably little from him in terms of this whole issue of the amazing — the enormous number of problems that Americans are having with the HMOs and the public outcry against them.

STEFFI WOOLHANDLER: Well, there was a lot — a fair amount of rhetoric, but not much in the way of program. I think the rhetoric is driven by polls. The President looks at polls and sees that healthcare is tied for number one as the top issue in voters’ minds. So he and Gore and Bradley do feel obligated to say the words healthcare, to talk about the uninsured, but really it’s — the programs are very, very poor which he has to offer. Even if he passed his program and everything went as planned, he would cover only a tiny fraction of the people who are now uninsured.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what do you make of this enormous retreat of his, when at the beginning of his administration the whole issue of affordable health insurance for all Americans was a major plank of his? And has this been a steady retreat now over the last seven years, or did the defeat of his healthcare plan just burn him so much that he decided not to tackle it anymore?

STEFFI WOOLHANDLER: Well, I think the Clinton administration has been listening more and more to the large insurance companies. They, in fact, were the ones who defeated his original plan. And he and Gore have decided really to play ball with them and really not challenge the private insurance industry in any fundamental way.

Unfortunately, that’s been true of Bradley, as well. His proposal for more health insurance coverage is really a proposal to dump billions and billions of taxpayer dollars over into the private insurance industry.

So all of the major Democrats are really bowing to the interests of the private insurance industry in the proposals that they’re putting forward. Now, it’s not just my opinion. In fact, Chip Khan, who is president of the Health Insurance Association of America, the group that brought us Harry and Louise the first time around, he is actually saying that he likes Bradley’s proposals and he likes the proposals that the Clinton-Gore administration is now putting forward.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you give us a little more specifics in terms of the difference between what Bradley is offering in terms of healthcare and Gore, who we have not had a chance until now to really get into much of the differences between them on healthcare?

STEFFI WOOLHANDLER: OK. Well, Gore’s proposal is more or less to continue with what the Clinton administration has done. He would make some minor expansions in a program called CHIP that covers some poor children. He would make some minor expansions in the Medicare program by allowing people to buy into Medicare in some circumstances, but mostly it’s a continuation of the present status quo.

The Bradley proposal is much more radical, in probably a bad sense of the word, in that he is going to abolish the existing Medicaid program that now provides health insurance for poor people and replace it with a system of vouchers for people to go and try to purchase private insurance. Of course, the vouchers will be very much unfunded and underpowered so that poor people will only be able to buy the bargain basement worst kind of HMO coverage.

He’s also patched on a program of tax credits and vouchers for people with incomes between 100% and 200% of the poverty line, and for children up to 300% of the poverty line. These vouchers and tax credits would be for people to buy private insurance. And again, the vouchers are quite underpowered and would make it difficult for people to really get decent coverage.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Woolhandler, we have to break for stations to identify themselves. We’re also joined by Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and as well, Earl Ofari Hutchinson. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan Gonzalez. Our guests: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author and commentator; Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research — Earl is in Los Angeles, Dean is in Washington — and Dr. Steffi Woolhandler is a professor at Harvard University and founder of Physicians for a National Health Care Plan, in Boston.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Dr. Woolhandler, you were giving us a synopsis of the differences in the Gore and Bradley health plans when we took a break.

STEFFI WOOLHANDLER: Well, both the Gore — Clinton-Gore administration and Bradley are supporting an expanded role for private health insurance in the delivery of care. Bradley’s proposal is somewhat more radical in that it does abolish the Medicaid program and turn that money over to the private insurance industry and does set up a system of tax credits and vouchers for lower-income people to purchase private health insurance. But both have been endorsed by the private health insurance industry, and neither comes close to giving the American people the nonprofit national health insurance system that they need and, in fact, polls show that they want.

I think it’s interesting that of all the progressive issues that I can think of, national health insurance is the one progressive issue that enjoys majority support among the American people. Poll after poll after poll have shown that the majority of the Americans want a health insurance system that’s funded by taxes. The majority of people are oppose the private health insurance industry and feel that the search for profits in healthcare is bad for quality. So the health insurance issue is a real potential issue for progressives to build the kind of coalition that Congressman Sanders was talking about, the kind of coalition of working and middle-class people that we need to take back American democracy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I’d like to get back to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. On the trade issue, as I watched the President’s speech last night, he got the biggest applause from the Republican side when he started talking about the need to move forward on trade and also for the —for most favored nation status for China. What do you make of that?

DEAN BAKER: Well, trade is a very interesting story here, because trade — I’d have to disagree with Steffi — trade is another issue where the progressive position enjoys overwhelming popular support. The President’s trade proposals — NAFTA, the WTO, support of the IMF, go down the list — they’re tremendously unpopular among the public. The only people who support them are the corporations that are going to benefit from them. The vast majority of the public recognizes that they’re losers. These are not things they support.

And what you had in the Congress, you have the Republicans standing up there. I mean, obviously, both sides are getting plenty of corporate money, but the big difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is the Democrats at least have to pretend to care about labor.

And particularly when it comes to the issue of China entering the WTO, all of the President’s claims that he cares — he made them last night: we care about labor rights, we care about eliminating child labor and sweatshops — that’s a joke if China gets into the WTO, because we know there is no way on earth that China is going to agree to those measures. And, you know, if we’re going to adhere to WTO roles, then that knocks them completely off the table.

So the Democrats are in a very, very awkward position. They have to pretend to care about, you know, labor rights, labor standards. Whether they do or not, who knows, but they obviously have corporate contributors who don’t. But at the same time, you know, they don’t want to buck the President and they also don’t want to buck their contributors.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But the problem for the voters is that there’s not much — in terms of the trade issue — there’s not much of a choice in any of the other candidates, is there?

DEAN BAKER: Well, I mean, you — —-actually, what’s interesting is that you can -— I mean, there have been some big defeats. For example, the President couldn’t get his fast track authority through last year so he could negotiate Free Trade of the America’s region extension of NAFTA. There was effective opposition to that, and, you know, it’s not a question of what these people want to do. I mean, the best way to think of these politicians is, they will do, you know, what there’re forced to do. And for the most part, you know, that’s going to be what the corporate interests want them to do.

But in the case of some of these trade issues, there’s been enough popular pressure that they don’t want to take the heat of voting for measures that they know the vast majority of their constituents are opposed to. So, you know, when it comes to some of these trade issues, trade and related issues [inaudible] trade, you know, funding for the International Monetary Fund, for example, it is possible to pressure these people and block their agenda.

So it’s, I think, very, very important for people to be focused on what’s going on, and there are a lot of Democrats that could be pressured to, say, oppose China’s entering the WTO. There’s a lot of Republicans, some of them — sometimes for the worst reasons, there’s some Republicans that will oppose it, because they don’t like China’s policies of allowing abortion. So — but, you know, if they’ll vote against it, they’ll vote against it. That’s the way it goes.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Earl Ofari Hutchinson — we’ve got about a minute and a half left — if you could tell us something in terms of the prospective support that the Clinton-Gore administration will have for Gore among African Americans and Latinos, because, of course, there’s been a lot of discussion of George Bush having — making enormous inroads, if he’s the nominee of the Republicans, into the Latino vote.

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON: Well, a poll came out the other day in California, and you certainly know California is a very pivotal state for both parties, hotly contested. Interestingly enough, it showed that Latino support Gore — Bush at this point seems to be the presumptive candidate in California. He did about 25% to 30% of the Latino vote. I think in Texas it was somewhere around 35% to 40% of the vote and about 25% to 30% of the African American vote.

On the other hand, the African American vote in California — now you usually take that as a bellwether of other parts of the country — is still very, very low for Bush and/or McCain. We’re talking about anywhere from 10% to 15%. So at this point in time African Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly are certainly registered Democrats and at least at this point in time overwhelmingly, if the election were held today, Gore, if he was a candidate, Bradley, same thing. And Bush, if he was a candidate, would still do very poorly among African Americans and only marginally better among Latinos.

On the other hand, we’ve got to remember one thing: Republican Party has, with great fanfare, has made a big deal about how much money there’re going to spend, to the tune of about $10 million on a massive advertising campaign, promotional campaign. They’re going to invite a number of Latino community leaders to their confabs and conventions, and so forth, and they’re also going to spend a lot of money in Latino communities, saying that, look, we are a party that cares about you. So essentially they’re piggybacking on the perceived Bush appeal to Latinos, and they’re going really full throttle to try to get the Latino vote. How successful it will be remains to be seen.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, that’s all the time we have for today. I’d like to thank our three guests in this segment, Dr. Steffi Woolhandler, professor at Harvard University and founder of Physicians for a National Health Care Plan, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author and social commentator.

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